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House GOPers to pursue contempt of Congress against Holder

According to an aide at the House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee, the committee will proceed with a motion on June 20 to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress in relation to the investigation into the so-called "Fast and Furious" gun-running operation.

Charles Dharapak / AP

Attorney General Eric Holder testifies on Capitol Hill, Thursday, June 7, 2012, before the House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing on the Justice Department.

The motion will have to pass through committee before it sees a full vote in the House.

The AP reports that House Republicans are pursuing this motion against Holder "for failing to produce some documents the panel is seeking.... To date, the the Justice Department has produced 7,600 pages of documents to the committee."

More from the AP:

Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, says Congress needs to examine records regarding the Justice Department's conduct following public disclosures in early 2011 that hundreds of guns illicitly purchased at gun shops on the U.S. side of the border wound up in Mexico, many of them at crime scenes.

The Justice Department says many of the documents deal with open criminal investigations and prosecutions -- matters relating to sensitive law enforcement activities that cannot be disclosed.

Contempt of Congress is used when the House or Senate wants to punish a recalcitrant witness for not complying with an investigation and, by doing so, is done to deter others from similar conduct.

If found in contempt of Congress, punishments can range from jail time, to fines, to probation, but it typically does not get that far.

If the committee passes this motion to proceed June 20, it is then sent to the full House of Representatives for a vote. If it passes through the full House, it then is referred to the U.S. Attorney. 

Two recent contempt of Congress considerations:
2008: Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee found White House counsel Harriet Miers and Chief of Staff Josh Bolton in contempt for not cooperating with an investigation into possible political motivation in the handling of federal prosecutors by the Bush adminstration. The full House passed the measure, but most Republicans (including Boehner and Issa) boycotted the vote.

1998: Janet Reno was found in contempt of Congress by Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee for not complying with a subpoena regarding possible campaign-finance law violations. The full House never voted on the measure after the documents they had requested were turned over.